Although we encounter the appropriate number of bodies dismembered, severed and field dressed, the tension level never gets beyond 3 on the Creepy-Movie 10-point Scale. It’s all about the pacing, which falls somewhere between sluggish and inert.
The show opens with Detective Hazel Micallef staggering to her feet after another tough night sleeping on the floor. Hungry, hung over and wretched, she makes her way to the dink wad police station in the southern Ontario town of Port Dundas. A breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee bolstered with a big tot of whiskey and she’s ready for the world.
But who could be ready for a world of devout old ladies with their throats slashed? And what about the fact that the mouths of the slain are arranged in such a way that they seem to be — collectively — saying something? Something in Latin. Holy smoke and mirrors!
An explanation is offered up by the local parish priest, played by the usually reliable Donald Sutherland. And the hunt is on as we follow, at a glacial pace, the trail of religious portents to the anti-climatic climax.
The main mystery is how Academy Award winner Sarandon, the fine Mr. Sutherland and the distinguished Ellen Burstyn (she plays Sarandon’s mother) took on this turkey.
Plot holes are numerous. It’s never clear why Detective Hazel chugs whiskey on the job and pops pills between meals. Or, for that matter, how she keeps her job when she arrives for work, day after day, looking like something the cat dragged in. Or why there’s a whole detective division in a town that’s deader than Mayberry. Or why the Catholic priest (Sutherland), when he’s saying his last prayers, recites the Protestant version of The Lord’s Prayer (“for thine is the kingdom, etc.). Or why nobody in this small town catches a clue that the tall spooky guy mixing potions at the diner and talking about redeeming souls and bringing back the dead might be worth checking out.
Sarandon, who has played strong women in “Thelma and Louise” and “Dead Man Walking,” among many other impressive performances, is curiously weak as the lead detective investigating this ghastly series of slayings. What’s the point? The genius of Frances McDormand’s Oscar-winning depiction of Police Chief Marge Gunderson in “Fargo” (1996) was her juggling act: wife, expectant mother with morning sickness, astute investigator and, in the end, crack shot. Sarandon brings no more spirit to her role than her character brings to her job.